It was a gorgeous sunny Tampa day when we arrived at Big Guava Fest late in the afternoon. We had just flown in from Atlanta after seeing a mind-blowing Strokes show at the Shaky Knees Festival the nite before. Tired but still going!
Run The Jewels
First up, we stopped in to see Run The Jewels. Their gritty hip-hop aesthetic echoed in the expo hall of the fairgrounds. Honestly it was just a weird place to see any band. Lots of people completely ignored the show, instead happy to sit in the bleachers in the A/C to get relief from the heat outside. That’s the thing about music festivals. Unless you’re the headliner, your audience is generally filled with lackluster attitudes.
Back to the show. It’s not as though we are accustomed to hip hop and rap, but the “Lie, Cheat, Steal” chanting made us feel uneasy. So many impressionable young minds just rhythmically nodding along. Cringe-worthy, so we moved on.
Cold War Kids
There’s not much to say here, because we missed the one song we knew – “Hang Me Up to Dry.” I was surprised at how big the crowd was for these guys.
Learning our lessons from previous festival, we knew that in order to be in front (or even close) to see The Strokes, we had to post-up for hours before. Therefore, we saw Hozier. We had a brief conversation about how odd and even insulting it could be for a musician to see people in the audience talking rather than paying attending to the set. Ah, right. And then we stopped being rude and just politely listened.
That band is an interesting mix of people – from Andrew Hozier-Byrne (who sipped hot tea throughout the show), a girl on keyboards, a guy on bass, two back-up singers and a cellist. The teenage girls in the audience were all aflutter about this guy. No clue.
His style is too folksy for my taste – especially “Take Me Church,” which got the crowd excited and then somber. Though I found myself nodding along a couple of times.
As the super-fans we are, we wrote an entire post just about this show. You should read it. Since we committed to being up front for the show, we didn’t make it to see TV on the Radio again, or The Pixies, Banks, Action Bronson or Classixx.
Around the Festival
Having the good fortune to attend some truly well-put-together music festivals, we’re the tough-to-please kind of crowd for these sorts of events. We hope that Big Guava keeps coming back. But in order to draw in the crowds, Tampa’s going to need to polish up its hospitality. Some observations:
- Tickets – There was a mess at the box office where people we buying tickets, waiting at Will Call, and cashing in Groupons. No organization, no helpful staff.
- Pit wristbands – After you got into the festival, you had to go wait in another line at a tent where ONE PERSON was checking tickets and handing out wristbands for the General Admission Pit. Why not just give out wristbands at the front gate? So confused by this, and it wasted a lot of listening time.
- Water stations – Three water fountains at one end of the festival and a SINK with faucets at the other end do not suffice as “water stations.” It was like you wanted us dehydrated.
- Merch – I realize this is really a problem with the bands, but there was very little to choose from. Most shocking: supremely uninspired Big Guava Festival T-shirts. There was one design, and it was terrible.
- Finding your car – I realize that for many festivals, you arrive via public transportation or Uber, but in Tampa, you drive. There are no landmarks in the vast parking lot and finding your car in a sea of headlights was challenging. How about some signs?
- Ladies bathroom attendants flagging open stalls and funneling us through quickly. Awesome time saver!
- Free refills on the $8 souvenir cup. If I couldn’t get water, at least I could get all the Coke I wanted.
Big Guava Festival, Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa, Florida
Lineup We Saw:
- 430-515 Run The Jewels
- 520-620 Cold War Kids
- 710-810 Hozier
- 920-1050 The Strokes